The Christmas Letter is something I don’t recall ever coming across until we moved to this area about twenty-five years ago. It basically is a way to stay in touch with folks we have encountered through our life and relay to them on what has been happening over the last year in our family. That’s a noble purpose. They tend to skew positive, but then who wants to receive a downer of a letter from a friend at Christmas time?
I suppose they can even seem a bit narcissistic. So, I want to try to redeem the exercise by doing two things. I will try to be at least a little bit honest and I invite you to reciprocate with your own update (if you are so inclined).
Here is my Christmas Letter.
My wife is lovely.
Our kids are amazing.
Our grandkids incredible.
Our great grandkids super cute.
Our little dog, also very cute.
Our home is beautiful.
We are looking forward to both being retired later this year.
We plan to do some traveling down south.
We are artisans with micro jewelry and lighting businesses.
We get along well with our family.
We have a nice little network of friends, neighbors, and work and business associates.
I am also into writing and guitar playing, trying to live up to my constructed image of a cool, old guy.
End of letter.
Well, I said they tend to skew positive. Obviously, the Christmas Letter above was written in jest, but upon more careful examination, it is also true. We are very blessed. I am very blessed.
The stuff in a Christmas letter is never the whole story though. It’s just the good stuff, the highlights.
Sometimes I struggle with depression, especially in the winter. I struggle to feel purpose in life. I have to work at achieving a balance between staying focused without burying myself too deeply in whatever I take on. It’s been hard to find a niche in my lighting business and appropriate outlets for writing. I have so much more I want to do in these areas.
I get excited about creating stuff, communicating ideas, restoring pieces of history, the revitalization of antiques, beautiful architecture, and entire downtowns. (While I don’t do the architectural or community restoration and revitalization, I have a lot of respect for those who do.)
I hate the busyness that envelopes Christmas time but enjoy a few of the more festive activities. I need time to reflect, to dream, to process thoughts, positive and especially the negative ones.
Death is not normally a topic of conversation in Christmas letters, or even polite conversation. We try to put it out of our minds. Yet it has been on mind a lot lately. In the last four years, we have said goodbye to my dad, mother, brother, and Patty’s brother. We are the only ones left in our families of origin. Mom died two years ago, two days before Christmas and my brother last year, two days before New Year’s Day. Missing them and facing my own mortality has left me hyper-sensitive to death. I have got to sort that out.
There, I spilled my innards in just a few sentences. I hope it was not a downer, but permission for you to be honest too.
I leave you with a reminder. Amid real life with its curveballs, emotional rollercoasters, quandaries, and flashes of joy and despair, there is this.
The message of Christmas is raw and real and full of hope: a cruel, overreaching government that taxed its subjects excessively, having to give birth in barn full of animals, being rejected by the religious establishment, and tortured to death by a corrupt conspiracy of religious and political power players.
However (a very important word), deity became humanity, a new way of life was revealed, the outcasts were treated as friends, the powerful were rebuked, the untouchables were embraced, the chasm between God and man rejoined, the grave no longer the final resting place, a lifestyle summed up in one word: love.